Saturday, 27 September 2008

An interview with Broadway's Liz Callaway

Once again it’s time to meet another of my Really Useful People, this time I head across the Atlantic (if only the trip was for real!) to talk to Broadway leading lady Liz Callaway.
Liz is possibly best known for a Tony nominated performance in the musical “Baby”, being part of the original New York cast of “Miss Saigon”, and “Follies In Concert” at the Lincoln Centre.
She has also voiced lead characters for Disney’s sequels to “The Lion King” and “Aladdin”, and enchanted a generation of children as the singing voice of the animated “Anastasia”.
A prolific recording career has seen her perform on numerous recordings including three stunning solo albums. “The Story Goes On – Liz Callaway On And Off Broadway” is a must have for any lover of musical theatre.
As well as her theatrical credits Liz has a thriving concert and cabaret career, including the award winning “Sibling Revelry” which she performed with her sister, Ann Hampton Callaway, at the Donmar Warehouse Theatre.
Last but not least, Liz was a long standing Grizabella in the Broadway production of “Cats” at the Winter Garden Theatre – which, of course, is what makes her a Really Useful Person!

So without further ado let’s hand over to Liz…

What was your first experience of Musical Theatre?
My parents took me to see Company on Broadway when I was, I think, 9 years old. They had seen the show first and brought home the cast album. I memorized every song on the album. I just loved it.

What was the first role you ever played ? (School shows count!)
I played Lucille in No, No, Nannette when I was a sophomore in high school. I’m grateful YouTube doesn’t have any record of it.

Which shows have particularly influenced you both as a member of the audience and a performer?
Well, Company for starters. I’d have to say Sunday in the Park with George was very important to me. I saw the first preview of the original, and went back to see it again two more times. I also got to play Dot in a regional production of Sunday. I think it is a very moving piece. Baby was my first big part of Broadway (I played Lizzie,) and that was the most important show in my career.

I have the hardest time answering this question. Earlier in my career I’d say Eydie Gorme, Pamela Myers (from Company) Barbra Streisand. Now I would say Barbara Cook, for her artistry and longevity, and Meryl Streep - not just as an actress, but especially as a fellow working mother.

You had a particularly long run as Grizabella” in the Cats at the Winter Garden on Broadway – do you have any particular memories of this time – and exactly how long were you in it?
I did Cats on and off for 5 years. I loved playing Grizabella, and I also loved being part of such a wonderful ensemble. I practically raised my son backstage, when I wasn’t on stage, I’d be on the floor playing trains with him, or I’d be giving him a bath. If the audience ever knew….Of course it was an honour to sing Memory night after night, but I also enjoyed the challenge of dancing in the opening number. I called my character in the opening Mahoovna. Whenever I had friends come to the show and they said they couldn’t find me in the opening number- that was the biggest compliment. It meant I didn’t stick out too much!

If you could play any role in any Lloyd Webber show which one would most appeal?
Hmmmmmmmmm. Actually I love creating roles, so I’d have to say that I’d love to do a brand new show that he wrote. That said, I would also love to do Song and Dance.

Male co-star?
I wouldn’t mind Hugh Jackman!

I was lucky enough to see you and your sister Ann Hampton Callaway performing your “Sibling Revelry” act at the Donmar a few years back. I even particularly remember a very clever “recovery” when you lost your ear ring! What are your particular memories of working in the West End?
I can’t believe you remember I lost my earring during the show! Ann and I had a great time working at the Donmar. The London audiences were so welcoming, and the Donmar was a fantastic venue for our show.

Is there any chance of you coming back, either with or without Ann to perform further engagements?
I would LOVE to come back to London, with or without Ann. Can you get me a job, please??? Seriously, I am looking for a venue to do a solo concert in. I recently performed a solo Sondheim concert in Barcelona, and would love to do that show in London.

Back to your side of “the pond” - for any of us taking a New York break are there any must-do’s that we may not have thought of?
I always think it’s great to walk around NYC without a plan. There are so many unexpected discoveries to be had, if you don’t have your nose in a map or guidebook.

What song do you most enjoy singing?
Meadowlark by Stephen Schwartz

You have quite a varied career performing in musicals, animated movies , concerts and cabaret, and also a prolific recording career – which aspect do you find most satisfying?
I love doing it all, and I’m incredibly fortunate that I am able to do it all, but if I had to pick one thing, I would say recording.

What are the personal highlights of your career so far?
There are too many to list, but Baby, Cats, Spitfire Grill (Off Bway), Anastasia… I could go on and on.

If you weren’t a performer what would you be?
A sports journalist, (I love sports) or I’d make an excellent travel agent.

What makes you really happy?
Being with my son and husband, cocktails on a roof deck anywhere in Europe, and a good night’s sleep.

What makes you really angry?
Being charged $25 for a second suitcase at the airport.

Cats or dogs?
I’ve always been a dog person, but 4 years ago I got a long hair Persian named Lennie. I am totally smitten. I have many more photos of Lennie on my phone than of my family.

Old Deuteronomy or The Rum Tum Tugger?
Old Deut.

Any future projects you would like to share with us? I hear whispers of a recording of a forgotten Rodgers and Hammerstein musical…..
Yes, I am on a new recording of Allegro to be released in January 2009. Next week I am going into the studio to begin recording a new solo CD. I am finally going to record Memory! And this Christmas, I’ll be at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. performing The Music of Andrew Lloyd Webber!

To quote a lyric from “Baby” – “What Could be Better?”
Obama as our next president.

And finally, do you have a handy household hint to share with us?
You left the hardest question for last. Never throw out over ripe bananas. Break them into small pieces and put in freezer bags. Anytime you want to make a smoothie, instead of ice, use the frozen banana chunks. Is that a household hint?

….and on that note many thanks to Liz Callaway – for more info about Liz you can check out her website Also don’t forget to check out her “The Story Goes On” CD – it’s great and includes her version of “Meadowlark” that she mentions

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